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Gawain and the nonexistent knight

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Gawain and the nonexistent knight

Bernatchez, Joshua (2007) Gawain and the nonexistent knight. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Italo Calvino's The Nonexistent Knight as texts in which the protagonists are engaged on unique quests that force them to choose either physical dissolution or the dissolution of their sense of personal significance. The impossible decision suggests that human life and the significant "self' as a constructed idea are inextricably linked and of comparable value but may have contradictory survival conditions. Contextualized with reference to Charles Taylor, "selfhood" is necessarily linked to moral "horizons" against which such concepts become meaningful. The protagonists of the literary texts in question justifiably manifest a desire for their systems of self-interpretation to be stable and transcendent. However, such identity-conferring systems are problematic because they are subject to inherent indeterminacy and fluctuation. Consequently, the characters in both texts are forced to recognize the inaccessibility of perfectly stable meaning and the need for paradigms to be adaptable. Calvino's text dramatizes the importance of the paradigm personified by the nonexistent knight Agilulf. The model he represents, despite his inevitable dissolution, provides intelligible form to an otherwise empirically real but meaningless existence feared by the other characters and embodied by his squire Gurduloo. Similarly, Gawain is ultimately faced with the need to interpret the significance of his life in relative terms due to his inevitable inability to make his infallible chivalric reputation and his finite human character coincide. The texts, together, situate any surviving rational agency within the interpretative capacity for dealing with inherent paradox.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > English
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Bernatchez, Joshua
Pagination:v, 145 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:English
Date:2007
Thesis Supervisor(s):Furlani, Andre
ID Code:975411
Deposited By: Concordia University Library
Deposited On:22 Jan 2013 16:07
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:40
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